Ahead of her panel discussion at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference in Oman tomorrow, London-based Lebanese jewelry designer Noor Fares sat down for a chat about her ties to the region and the inspirations behind her creations.
How does it feel to be in Oman as a speaker at the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference?
I’m really excited to be here. I am very grateful to Suzy Menkes for including me in this experience. I’m looking forward to sharing stories about my work and my jewelry, to the learning experience of it all, and to be listening to interesting people talk.
How does your Lebanese background influence your work?
The influence, my cultural heritage, is reflected through my work in a very subtle way. It’s not a literal translation of the Lebanese esthetic of jewelry, or the Arabic esthetic of jewelry but there are very subtle references, like for example the evil eye. And I always have a little blue sapphire hidden in the back of a ring. This necklace that I am wearing with this sphere, this rose-quartz sphere that turns, is inspired by the worry beads. You call them masbaha in Arabic.
What’s your earliest jewelry-related memory?
I grew up with women around me who are very colorful, not afraid to take risks with their own style, and who wear a lot of accessories. My grandmother, for example, who grew up in a tiny village in the north of Lebanon, was easily the most elegant woman I have ever met. She loved jewelry and she used to wear a ring on every finger of her hand. Wearing jewelry is so personal and it is really a way of expressing yourself even more than clothes, in a way, because it is like an extension of yourself.
Why do you think jewelry is so important in the Middle East?
One of the reasons is that the craft is very much in a lot of the countries in the Middle East and the Gulf. You have the gold souks and the jewelry markets where you buy gold and jewelry based on the weight. The fact that there is this culture of craftsmanship plays a part. But also in Middle Eastern societies, people love to wear jewelry and they feel comfortable wearing jewelry all the time. They wear it, and they wear it so naturally. This generates a demand for jewelry. And then there is more craft and then more designers. I also think in the Middle East they love religious jewelry and superstitious jewelry like the eye, the page from the Quran, and the cross. Women and men wear jewelry, children wear jewelry here; you see small children with bracelets and earrings.
When you think of the Middle East, what stone comes to mind?
I think of pearls, from the Gulf, especially when I am here and when I am in Bahrain and Qatar. I think of pearls.
Finally, what’s your most treasured jewelry piece?
When I was about eight years old, my three older brothers got me a present together: a little gold heart-shaped locket with all of their initials written inside. I still have it.